Manager or Leader?

When running a business or a home, there are two ways of approaching the job. There are managers and there are leaders. The style in which you approach your responsibilities will determine the choices you make. Just as in business, you set the pace for the family and must find the balance between what takes place today and how it impacts tomorrow.

A manager is responsible for the day-to-day happenings. He makes sure that what needs to happen does happen and as it should. Management skills are great when you’re handling a fight between your children. They’re great when you’re deciding if you can afford a toy your toddler is asking for at the store. They help you make sure the homeschooling schedule is completed each day and that your children have been fed. **

Management skills are necessary. They will keep your home and your family flowing. Unfortunately, too many people stop at being a manager of their home and get bogged down in the day to day. They fail to become leaders. Leaders have a vision. They start with the end in mind and know where it is they want to go. They excite others about their destination and empower them to get there too. They are proactive in their choices and make sure any action made will get them closer to their destination.

The distinction between manager and leader is very important when you are parenting. Someone with a management style of parenting will find herself bogged down in the little things. She will spend lots of time entertaining her children so they don’t get bored, or refereeing them so they don’t fight. Great effort will be put into getting them to sleep, both at naps and at night. The schedule will revolve around the children’s needs and while they may argue that they aren’t, these people are truly child-centered.

A leader, on the other hand, has a vision. They know where their family is going and they structure their lives around getting their children and themselves there. Children will therefore be taught how to entertain themselves. They will be taught appropriate social and communication skills so that there is less conflict in the home. Routines will be put in place for nap, nighttime, meals and anything else that happens regularly. By doing these things, the leader-parent will be free to focus on what is important to her in life. For the Christian, this will include moral and character development. For the homeschooler, this will include completing lessons for the sake of learning (not just getting the lesson done). Time will be freed up for ministry as a family as well as more family time to play. And everyone will have more fun when doing the ministry work or the family fun time because everyone will be getting along.

When first learning about Grace-Based Discipline (GBD) many people ask this question, “Does it work?” My answer has become, “What do you want it to do?”

Parents who are stuck in the management style of running their home will find themselves frustrated with implementing GBD. It is easier to smack your child than to stop what you’re doing and help them work through a conflict. It is easier to send your child to their room to “think about it” than it is to implement active listening and reflect feelings. It is easier to yell at your child than to go to them and make something happen. If you want to remain a manager in your home, you will likely prefer the punitive methods since they are easier and create a false sense of having well-managed your home. Because, after all, you did something about it.

Unfortunately, punitive styles of parenting fail to take into account tomorrow as well as the very important question, “What am I teaching my child?” In the examples I’ve just listed, the child will have been taught to be violent especially if he wants his way,  to avoid conflict rather than work through it, to yell if he wants to be heard, and to take the easy way out. When we see angry children and rebellious teens, we need to remember that we are seeing what they have been taught. An important principle to remember is that people who feel bad act badly, while people who feel good act good.

The leader-parent is more interested in the long-term and in answering the question of what her actions are teaching. Modeling is one of the most important factors in being a GBD parent — what do your actions teach your child? “Discipline” means “to teach” and we need to teach our children the skills they will use in life. When you help your child work through a conflict, you are teaching them conflict resolution skills. When you actively listen and reflect feelings, you are teaching your child important communication skills as well as how not to be controlled by their feelings. When you get up and go to your child to make something happen, you are teaching them not to be idle and lazy and you are setting them up for success. Also important, you are teaching them that anything worth having is worth working for. You are teaching them about living in relationship.

Managing your home is important. Without management skills you will flounder and go nowhere. With management skills you will be going somewhere. Leadership skills, however, will help you to know where you want to go.  This must first be determined   before you select which management skills you will use. Different management skills will take you different places. Decide where you want to go before you find yourself somewhere you’d rather not be.


** The best tool I’ve found for home management is an email list called FLYLADY. You can read more about it at Flylady’s site ( It’s a program for helping you become a homemaker instead of just a housewife (or husband). If you’ve always wondered how other people seem to coast through their lives with meals prepared, hair styled, children presentable and home ready for someone to drop by at a moment’s notice, then this list is for you. She breaks down these skills (they’re not gifts, they’re skills) and teaches you how to do them yourself. She’s not shaming and encourages you to start today where you are — you’re never behind. She teaches you how to develop and stick to your routines which can help your life run on auto pilot.

The FLYLADY insists that she is not about getting people to do nothing but housework. On the contrary, her program is intended to free you from the chaos so many of us live in and provide you with more time for your family and for ministry (And let’s remember our family is our primary ministry!).